Cellini found guilty of conspiracy bribery, November 1, 2011

Cellini found guilty of conspiracy bribery, November 1, 2011

From the Chicago Tribune November 1, 2011.

“Cellini found guilty of conspiracy, bribery”
“A federal jury convicted Springfield power broker William Cellini on two of four counts in connection with a plot to extort a Hollywood producer.

The multimillionaire Republican businessman who wielded influence behind the scenes in Illinois politics and government for four decades was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding and abetting the solicitation of a bribe.

He was acquitted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and attempted extortion.

A straight-faced Cellini tapped his folded hands at the edge of the defense table as the verdict was read, otherwise showing little emotion. His daughter Claudia dropped her head on word of the first of the two guilty verdicts.

Cellini’s lawyer Dan Webb put the best face possible on the verdict, saying he was pleased the jury had “thrown out the most serious charges” and  that Cellini’s involvement “didn’t even rise to the level of an attempted extortion.”

“We obviously are going to appeal … and we are confident we have a substantial chance of getting the case reversed,” Webb said.

Cellini did not speak as he left the courthouse.

Patrick Fitzgerald, on crutches, said the prosecution was gratified by the guilty verdicts on the two counts, calling Cellini’s prosecution an “extremely important case.”

“In the quiet corridors in Chicago and Cook County and Springfield, a lot of backroom deals take place, and the fact that Bill Cellini was convicted today sends a very, very loud message,” Fitzgerald said.

The guilty verdict brings to 15 the number of individuals convicted in the eight-year federal Operation Board Games probe of the scandal-plagued Blagojevich administration.

Blagojevich himself is awaiting sentencing after being convicted in June on 17 of 20 counts, including allegations he tried to sell the U.S. Senate seat left open by Barack Obama’s election to president in 2008. The former governor was also convicted at his first trial in the summer of 2010 on a single count of lying to the FBI.

Word of a verdict in the Cellini trial came at about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. It was announced at about 12:15 p.m.

The 10-woman, two-man jury had just returned to the courthouse from a three-day weekend. Deliberations began last Wednesday but had to be restarted on Thursday after a juror was excused for an unexplained conflict of interest. An alternate was added to the panel.

The charges against Cellini centered on his longtime influence at the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System, the state pension fund for public school teachers outside Chicago. To keep from losing his clout after Blagojevich became the first Democratic governor of Illinois in more than a quarter century, prosecutors alleged that the prominent Republican fundraiser agreed to pick firms to manage TRS’s hundreds of millions of dollars in investments on one key condition – if they had contributed to Blagojevich’s campaign.”


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